Building the First Long-Distance Hiking Trail in Kurdistan

Can it help knit together a nation?
Andrea Frazzetta for The New York Times

There is a project underway to build a 150-mile-long hiking trail through the autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq If all goes well, the tentatively named Zagros Mountain Trail will stitch into a single two-week-long route fragments of walks following old canals and seasonal grazing paths, passing Byzantine temples and Jewish shrines, all while navigating around some seven million unexploded land mines from the Iran-Iraq and Persian Gulf wars.

Once it is finished, the Zagros trail will be the first long-distance hiking route not only in Iraq but very likely in all of Kurdistan, a conceptual and unrealized country of mountains, pine forests, deserts and thousands of rural villages cleaved by colonial-era rulers into parts of modern-day Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran.

There are models for such marathon enterprises — the Appalachian Trail, the Camino de Santiago, the Pennine Way — which attract hundreds of thousands of hikers annually and have transformed the economies of rural regions through which they pass. But none have yet been attempted in the Middle East's canonical shatter zone.

Can building a hiking trail help knit together a nation?

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